Shifting Baselines

Shifting Seas

My local paper, The Vancouver Sun, ran a great 5-part series on the oceans this week written by Larry Pynn titled Shifting Seas.

Part One gives an overview of fishing (both past and present) on the British Columbia coast. Part Two is all about the B.C. trawl fishery and their movement to buy and sell catch shares. This new approach to regulating the fishery means the little guys are gone but the fishery is supposedly better managed (given the obscene amounts of bycatch, I’m not sure it qualifies as well managed).

Part 3 presents the dismal state of commercial sockeye fishing while Part 4 helps to explain why: illegal gillnetting in the Fraser River is rampant during sockeye season. In just six months:

Fisheries officers in the Lower Fraser uncovered 297 violations for fishing during a closed time or in a closed area, 370 for harvesting contaminated clams, 97 related to aboriginal fisheries, 513 for recreational shellfish (crabs mainly), 95 for recreational salmon fishing in non-tidal waters, 61 for recreational salmon tidal, 230 for recreational rockfish, 93 for commercial crabbing, and 81 involving endangered sturgeon.

Finally, Part Five discusses some of the challenges facing consumers when they try to shop for sustainable seafood, including the frequent mislabeling of fish. One might order halibut but get hake. As we’ve discussed frequently here at Shifting Baselines, mislabeling impedes the consumer’s ability to choose wisely and also means consumers often pay more than they should for fish. Larry Pynn cites our work in his article and includes a photo of me suspiciously eyeing a Red Snapper:

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A “Red Snapper” and me at the Granville Island market. Photo by Ian Lindsay/Vancouver Sun